On May 24, 2011, Governor Scott Walker signed into law legislation that largely deregulates telephone service in Wisconsin. The legislation, codified as 2011 Wisconsin Act 22, was pushed through the Legislature by AT&T and other telephone companies looking to remove laws and regulations that protect consumers from high prices and poor telephone service.
Under provisions of Act 22, telephone companies can now charge consumers any price they wish for landline telephone service, even in areas of the state where there are no alternatives to landline service, such as many rural areas of Wisconsin.
Starting in May 2013, telephone companies won’t have to offer landline service, potentially stranding thousands of residents without alternatives such as cell phones or Internet phones.
If you have a complaint about landline telephone service, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, which had regulated telephone service for decades, is prohibited by the legislation to help consumers resolve their complaints. However, you can still call the commission at 1-800-225-7729 and let them know the problem you are having, and they can direct you to people at your telecommunications provider who may be able to help.
CUB had worked with an ad hoc coalition of telecom companies, unions, and small business associations to stop this and similar legislation in previous years, but this time around, AT&T was able to convince enough legislators to support the deregulation legislation.
Currently, about 2.2 million landlines are in use in Wisconsin, with many elderly citizens preferring landline service. Further, many rural areas have landline phones, but don’t have cell phone coverage or Internet phones. CUB is worried these customers have been abandoned by lawmakers too eager to help AT&T make higher profits by removing consumer protection laws that require fair prices and reliable landline telephone service.
SBC applied to the PSC for authority to remove price caps on basic local telephone service.
April 19, 2005 - After extensive discovery and research, CUB submitted the direct testimony of consultant Joe Gillan refuting SBC claims that competition is sufficient to allow the removal of price caps
September 12th, 2005 - PSC staff issued their briefing memorandum on which details the positions of CUB and SBC.
October 31, 2005 - CASE OUTCOME: CUB was greatly disappointed that the PSC granted SBC's request to drop price caps on basic telephone service.